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DARMSTADT, Germany — Three expert witnesses testified in German court Friday as to the maturity level of a 21-year-old American on trial for murdering his girlfriend last October in Darmstadt.

The testimony is crucial to the panel of judges who must determine when the trial resumes next week whether to hold Edward Sharpsteen to the standards of a juvenile or an adult.

One court official said if the panel decides to treat Sharpsteen, who was 20 at the time of the murder, as a juvenile, he could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, as opposed to life, if judged to be an adult. In Germany, an individual given a life sentence typically becomes eligible for parole after 15 years, said the official, who asked not to be identified.

Sharpsteen, the son of a U.S. soldier, is charged with fatally stabbing 20-year-old Natascha C. Dillard, his former girlfriend, in a McDonald’s restaurant parking lot on the night of Oct. 27. Dillard, who was stabbed about 90 times, died not long after acknowledging to Sharpsteen that she was intimate with another man.

Two of the three expert witnesses who testified Friday afternoon were psychiatrists, while the third was a juvenile welfare officer from the area.

Though they had slightly different views, the two psychiatrists basically said Sharpsteen’s claim that he “blacked out” and was completely unaware of what he was doing couldn’t be true. This was no crime of passion absent of forethought, they deduced.

Both cited the restaurant security video played in court and Sharpsteen’s actions on tape: the three-minute appeal to Dillard, the concealment of the knife, pauses in the attack, and a survey of the area. There was even a reference to him repositioning the body so as to better inflict wounds.

“If this issue moved him so much [that he blacked out mentally], then this long dialogue that we saw on the video wouldn’t have occurred,” said Luther Staud, one of the psychiatrists. When he concealed the knife behind his back “he clearly knew this was wrong, what he was doing.”

Gerhard Schreiner, the juvenile officer, disagreed with the psychiatrists, describing Sharpsteen as a troubled soul who had “defects in his personal development” that went back years.

“Juvenile law could and probably should be applied,” Schreiner said.

The case resumes Wednesday in Darmstadt. Lawyers were asked to be prepared to give closing arguments.


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